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Dell XPS 15: Performance, Heat & Noise and Battery Life

By Mike Jennings


Our Score


Review Price £1,779.00

Dell XPS 15: Performance

Like the Precision M3800, the XPS 15 includes an Intel Core i7-4702HQ processor. It’s one of Intel’s most potent mobile parts: four Hyper-Threaded cores clocked to 2.2GHz, a Turbo Boost peak speed of 3.2GHz, and the latest Haswell architecture. It’s the same chip Dell used in the Precision M3800, and it’s a little faster than the 2GHz part inside the cheaper MacBook Pro.

It’s no surprise that the XPS 15 battered benchmarks. Its PCMark 7 result of 5,764 is a sliver behind the Precision but still one of the best scores we’ve seen, and the XPS’s GeekBench pace of 11,422 is also one of the best around – even if the MacBook’s result of 13,517 currently tops our table.

The Nvidia GT 750M uses the same GK107 core as the Quadro K1100M inside the Precision M3800, but here the GPU runs at 967MHz with 2GB of GDDR5 clocked to 2,000MHz. The Quadro ran its core at 716MHz, with RAM at 1,400MHz. The GT 750M is also used in one of Apple’s cheaper MacBook Pro configurations, with an Intel Iris Pro 5200 GPU available in the model we reviewed.

The extra clock speed gave the XPS 15 a slightly advantage over its workstation stablemate. The XPS scored 10,791 in 3DMark’s Cloud Gate benchmark, better than the Precision’s 8,005 score, and the XPS’s pace of 2,024 in the trickier Fire Strike test bested the 1,294 from the M3800.

Surprisingly, the XPS even beat the MacBook, even though the systems share a GPU. The XPS 15 stormed through Unigine Heaven’s basic benchmark to a score of 41.8 when run at 1,366 x 768, beating the 30.3 from the MacBook. We ran Heaven’s Extreme test at 1,920 x 1,080, where the XPS scored 14.9, and the MacBook only managed 9.7.

There’s a sting in the MacBook’s tale, though, in the form of the Intel Iris 5200 Pro integrated GPU included in Apple’s cheaper model. The new GPU has been clocked with scores of 11,338 in 3DMark’ Cloud Gate test, which is a little faster than the GT 750M in this system could manage.

It’s also worth noting that cheaper laptops pack in better graphics performance, although they lose out elsewhere. The chunky Asus G750JX includes an Nvidia GTX 770M core, which helped it score 3,133 in the Fire Strike benchmark and 53.6 in the Basic, 1,366 x 768 Unigine test, and it costs £1,399.

The high-end hardware is underpinned by a monster SSD. The 512GB capacity of the Samsung unit results in 460GB of usable space, and its sequential read and write speeds of 518MB/sec and 420MB/sec are excellent. There’s no hard disk, though, so users with large media collections or work files will soon take up all of this space. The MacBook has 256GB and 512GB SSD options, but both use the PCI-E interface and are faster than the Dell’s drive.

Dell XPS 15: Heat and Noise

The XPS 15 suffers from the same issue that afflicted the Precision M3800, with hugely powerful components crammed inside a slimline enclosure.

The fans spun up when we ran demanding benchmarks, and we couldn’t help but notice the high-pitched whine – it’ll be drowned out by music or headphones, but we found it irritating when working in silence. Hot air is pumped out of the base of this machine, which could cause an overheated lap.

Stress-tests revealed that the 17mm-thick body of the XPS 15 is at its limit. The processor’s idle temperature of 52°C isn’t a great start, but running each thread at 100% saw the chip rocket to 97°C. That’s only three degrees short of the processor’s thermal limit, and we’re glad the few applications make use of every CPU thread in this way.

Dell XPS 15: Battery Life

Dell has fitted the XPS 15 with the same six-cell unit as the Precision M3800, so we didn’t have great expectations about this machine’s longevity.

The Dell lasted for 4hrs 32mins in our Powermark test, which is a mere 24mins longer than the M3800 could manage. It’s a reasonable result for a high-end machine but, as before, nothing can touch the MacBook. Thanks to its hefty battery and OS X’s fantastic efficiency, Apple’s hardware lasted for a mighty ten hours.

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